Maverick hockey slides into new conference

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July 15th, 2011

Omaha, NE – The announcement of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference on Wednesday was a big splash for UNO’s hockey program.

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UNO Director of Athletics Trev Alberts and head hockey coach Dean Blais pose for pictures at Wednesday's news conference announcing the formation of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. (Photo Courtesy UNO)

Coaches and athletic directors from the six teams that joined the newly founded National Collegiate Hockey Conference met in Colorado Springs Wednesday to announce the founding of the conference; and there was no shortage of excitement. The conference includes UNO, the University of North Dakota, the University of Denver, Miami University, the University of Minnesota-Duluth and Colorado College.

The new league name can be shortened to “The National” as referred to by Athletic Director Trev Alberts during the press conference. According to Alberts, the formation of The National was not something that was spearheaded by one person.

“Roughly a year ago, a few AD’s who were meeting as part of conference meetings, spent some time together,” he said. “All of this happened very naturally.”

The conference is not yet a finished product, as the National is still actively looking at additional schools for possible inclusion. Notre Dame is in conversations with the National – these are ongoing and the possibility of the Fighting Irish joining the conference is looking very promising.

This is a big jump for UNO – and it’s also a two year process in which UNO won’t be officially in the conference until the puck drops in 2013. This will also be the Mavs’ third conference since starting the hockey program in 1996. Switching conferences is nothing new to the Mavs, as last year was both their first and last season in the WCHA. But it’s also a move that leaves Alberts gushing over his new found friends.

“Especially when you think about who you alighted up against, people with the kind of history and tradition of these teams,” Alberts said. “UNO is humbled to be at this table.”

Head Coach Dean Blais said he’s encouraged by the move.

“The coaches are just unbelievable in the new league,” he said. “With the tradition that North Dakota, Colorado College and Denver bring, we feel very fortunate to be in the new league, with only having hockey for 15 years.”

UNO finished last season in third place in the WCHA with a 17-9-2 record in league. The Mavs head into next season after last year’s overall record of 21-16-2. It was certainly one of the best in the team’s short history. Blais also said the Mavs are ready for the challenge set in front of them.

“We are the newcomers on the block, happy to be here.” he said. “But we will be competitive. We were 3rd in the WCHA last year, did well in the CCHA the year before with a very young team. Certainly the future looks bright for Nebraska at Omaha. “

The conference headquarters have not yet been established. UNO opens the season with an exhibition against the University of British Columbia on October 1st, and the first regular season game is the following Friday, October 7th against Mercyhurst College. Both games are at the CenturyLink Center Omaha formerly the Qwest Center in Omaha.

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